Apple TV For Developers
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Apple has upgraded its set-top box and announced that the future lies in apps. To ensure apps are forthcoming it has launched the tvOS SDK.

The revamped Apple TV has a built-in App Store, a new operating system called tvOS and new ways to connect with your screen. It also bundles Apple’s speech recognition device, Siri, so users can search for something to watch by making requests such as “Find me some funny TV shows”.

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From a developer viewpoint, the interesting news is the addition of the tvOS SDK.

Apple is hoping that current iOS developers will modify their iPhone apps - games in particular - to run on the new tvOS, which is based on iOS. The box is based on the Apple A8 chip, and the tvOS supports iOS technologies including Metal and Game Center. Its new remote has built-in sensors that recognize motions for controlling game play, and third-party remotes that use MFi networking are also supported.

The Siri Remote uses a glass touch surface that Apple says handles both small, accurate movements and big, sweeping ones. The SDK gives you access to the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, as well as the touch surface on the Siri Remote. The SDK also includes new templates using XML and Javascript as a framework for tvOS apps, so you can use predefined layouts and Javascript APIs to make it easier to create apps designed for streaming media.

There are three new XML frameworks for tvOS - TVMLJS, TVMLKit and TVServices. All are based on TVML, Apple’s custom version of XML. TVMLJS is used to load TVML pages in apps; TVMLKit links TVML, JavaScript and your native tvOS app, and TVServices can be used to add extensions to Apple TV apps.

There is also support for custom apps rather than TVML apps. The custom apps means you can use frameworks and concepts such as Storyboards, UIKit, and Auto Layout.

One drawback of the device is that there’s no local storage, so if you need to store data you’ll have to do it using iCloud, CloudKit, or your own back-end service. Another limitation is that an individual app can’t be larger than 200MB.

The APIs have the facility to load resources on demand, and the App Store will automatically split tagged content into downloadable bundles. The idea is to ensure rapid loading of games so the user can get started.

The Apple TV will be available at the end of October starting at $149 (US) for a 32GB model and $199 (US) for a 64GB model.

A new Xcode beta, which includes the tvOS SDK, is available for developers. The beta is the complete Xcode developer toolset for building apps that run on Apple TV, Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It includes the Xcode IDE, simulators, and all the required tools and frameworks to build apps for iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and OS X.

You can also request an Apple TV developer kit at developer.apple.com/tvos/. This option is open to ‘proven’ iOS developers, and the kit includes a pre-release Apple TV to use for testing. Supplies are very limited, but if you’re fortunate enough to qualify you’ll get a kit that will cost just $1 for shipping.  

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 September 2015 )